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Rehab on a Budget

In Milton, Ont., the fire department recently made an investment in fire fighter rehab that didn’t cost local taxpayers a nickel by converting a surplus cube van into a rehabilitation unit.

December 7, 2007 

80In today’s world of diminishing resources, effective crew management must include “fire fighter rehab” at the scene of a prolonged incident or where crews are forced to operate in temperature extremes. In Ontario, as in most of Canada, fire fighters can be called to duty when the temperature outside can be 39 C or alternately –20 C. Protecting your crews, and “rehabbing” them effectively on a fire scene is a sound strategy for all fire departments interested in the well-being of their fire fighters.
In Milton, Ont., the fire department recently made an investment in fire fighter rehab that didn’t cost local taxpayers a nickel. The department had recently replaced an older cube van with a more modern rescue vehicle and was contemplating sending the old rescue to the “bone yard.” The vehicle, a 1981 Ford, was in excellent shape, so someone came up with the idea of turning the van into a rehab unit. The initial obstacle, however, was the lack of budget capital. Fortunately though, in 2005 all fire departments in Ontario were each recipients of a one-time provincial grant from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services administered by the Office of the Fire Marshal. Our department earmarked $20,000 of these monies for our rehab project.

Owing to some extremely talented in-house skills, the project was turned over to Capt. Mike McConnell at Station 3 and his crew of artisans – Fire Fighters Tim Brown, Kevin Taziar, Gord Harse and Paul Hollingshead. Over the course of several months, these fire fighters stripped out the interior and installed new cupboards, interior surfaces of stainless steel, aluminium checkerplate and washable tile together with rubberized flooring to make a durable, easy-to-maintain unit. The crew added a refrigerator, two microwave ovens and an assortment of small appliances. A generator, misting fan, retractable awning, Kore Kooler chairs and a comfortable interior seating area with both air conditioning and supplemental heating now provide a warm environment in winter, and a cool environment in summer for fire fighters to take a break from the rigours of extended operations.

The rehab vehicle is stocked with water and other fluids for replenishing lost electrolytes, as well as foodstuffs such as energy bars.

The department devised SOPs for the operation of the unit, stressing the need for medical monitoring of staff who rotate through rehab, and the establishment of a specific Rehab Sector Officer in some circumstances. The unit is staffed by four retired fire fighters who have offered their services on a 24-hour-a-day basis as a means to allow them to continue their service to the community, and a way to stay connected with the fire fighters they served with for many years. The unit was placed back in service at the start of this past summer and has already proven valuable during both emergency operations and training events.


If you would like more information, please contact the Milton Fire Department at

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